The top 10 Navy football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
WR Jamir Tillman, Sr.
For a second straight year, Navy will harbor a potential next-level playmaker on offense. Tillman’s ability to stretch the field allows the triple-option to maximize its potential by keeping defenses honest. The Las Vegas native is coming off one of the best seasons by a receiver in academy history, catching 29 balls for 597 yards and five touchdowns. Plus, at a physical 6-4 and 212 pounds, he has the muscle to both beat defensive backs on 50-50 balls and manhandle them as a blocker on running downs.
LB Daniel Gonzales, Sr.
Gonzales is the leader of the Navy D, both physically and emotionally. Named co-captain for the upcoming campaign, he plays with a chip on his shoulder that rubs off on his teammates. A two-year starter at strongside, he ranked fourth on the team with 65 tackles, despite missing two games with an injury. At 6-2 and 240 pounds, Gonzalez possesses the size and strength to win battles at the point of attack and excel in run defense.
LB Micah Thomas, Jr.
Unlike the typical Navy linebacker, Thomas has terrific size, 6-1 and 249 pounds, the impetus for him to deliver the payload. He emerged into a force from the middle in his first season as a starter, ranking No. 2 on the team with 73 tackles, including 4.5 stops for loss and 2.5 sacks. With a full year under his belt, Thomas will take on more of a leadership role, while striving toward all-conference contention.
QB Tago Smith, Sr.
There’s simply no easy way to replace record-setting Keenan Reynolds, but the page is about to be turned in Annapolis. Fortunately, the Midshipmen are in the enviable position of having an experienced senior waiting in the wings. Smith, who arrived as a shifty slot back, has played in 14 career games, including a couple of starts, while serving as the backup over the past two seasons. Plus, Navy quarterbacks get plenty of practice reps, so the 5-10, 201-pound Smith will not be overwhelmed by the responsibility of succeeding a legend.
DE Amos Mason, Sr.
Mason is looking to build on a table-setting season by becoming the leader of a young Navy D-line. The converted linebacker was a factor up front for the Mids, making 47 stops, including five behind the line and a pair of sacks, and breaking up four passes. Mason is just 6-1 and 266 pounds, but he has good functional strength and employs many of the moves and hand techniques of a former Tennessee state wrestling champion.
SB Dishan Romine, Sr.
Romine is being counted on to offset some of the lost production from the graduation of Demond Brown. At 5-11 and 178 pounds, he’s big by Navy slot back standards, a bonus when run blocking, and he’s one of the fastest players on the squad. Romine has explosive potential as a special teamer and a rusher, as evidenced by last year’s 27.3-yard average on kick returns and 10.5-yard norm on 36 carries.
LB B.J. Palmore, Jr.
After Palmore started 13 games as a sophomore, the Midshipmen are banking on him taking the next step in his development this fall. He has good size on the outside, 6-3 and 236 pounds, so he holds well at the point of attack. Now, more production and big plays are expected after Palmore laid a foundation with 36 tackles, five stops for loss, two sacks and two fumble recoveries.
SB Toneo Gulley, Sr.
Gulley has worked hard for this year’s opportunity to finally play a larger role on offense. And he’s being rewarded with not only a chance to start at slot back, but also serve as a co-captain. One of the program’s leaders, he’s earned three letters, mostly on special teams. But after carrying just 12 times for 189 yards and three scores, while quietly excelling as a blocker, the 5-8, 196-pound Gulley is itching for more touches in 2016.
FS Daiquan Thomasson, Sr.
Thomasson got a taste of action after starter Kwazel Bertrand was injured in the Air Force. And he plans to build on that unexpected playing time as a senior. Thomasson is one of the best overall athletes on the team, and at 6-0 and 205 pounds has the size to outmuscle opponents for jump balls. As a nine-game starter a year ago, he chipped in with 41 tackles, a pair of interceptions and four pass breakups.